CURRITUCK — Dozens of motorists on Monday were denied access to the Outer Banks over the Wright Memorial Bridge as Currituck and Dare counties continue to enforce a ban on visitors and non-resident property owners because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Currituck Sheriff’s Office is also patrolling the waters around the county’s portion of the Outer Banks.
Dare County has a checkpoint on its side of the Wright Memorial Bridge which is manned 24 hours a day with four to six deputies.
Only Currituck and Dare county residents and people who work on the Outer Banks are allowed access.
“If you are “Joe Johnson of Hampton, Va., you are not getting in (over the bridge),” said Currituck Commissioner Kevin McCord, who is also a sergeant with the Currituck Sheriff’s Department. “If your driver’s license does not say Currituck or Dare (counties), you are not coming over the bridge. We probably turned away 50 people (Monday).’’
Currituck Sheriff Matt Beickert told the board of commissioners Monday night that sheriff’s deputies recently set up a monitoring position in Corolla after hearing reports that people were being “smuggled” into that part of the county. Deputies found no evidence of any smuggling and the department is no longer monitoring that area.
“At the Duck-Corolla line, we had reports of people being smuggled in commercial-type vehicles,” Beickert said. “Our purpose there was to deter and catch anyone that used that method to get people into Corolla.”
The Currituck Sheriff’s Department is also patrolling waterways around the Currituck Outer Banks and Beickert said that effort will continue. The patrols are intercepting boats before they reach the county and educating boaters about Currituck’s order banning visitors and non-resident property owners from that area of the county.
“We will be out there,” Beickert said. “Our emergency services director is helping us potentially get more boats out on the water. We have turned more than several boats around. Basically, they were not aware of our declaration. Nobody went against our recommendations as far as following the declaration if that was their intent.’’
McCord and fellow Deputy Kevin Bray patrolled the water around Carova on Sunday and McCord said they turned away around two dozen people.
“Everyone pretty much complied,” McCord said. “We were looking for luggage, we were looking to see if someone was trying to smuggle someone in. We had a lot of fishermen, and they might have had Virginia boats, they were fishing the canals and we watched them.’’
Beickert said businesses in the county that have been closed, or providing limited service like restaurants, because of COVID-19 are following state guidelines.
“Everybody seems to be following these guidelines that have been put in place already,” Beickert said.
Beickert told the board that there is no plan to conduct random stops of motorists during the state’s shelter-at-home order.
He said he made that determination after speaking with the N.C. Sheriff’s Association, who advised him there are so many activities allowed under the stay-at-home order — going to fast-food restaurants, participating in outside activities at a park, going to work — that it would “indiscriminately cause” deputies to stop motorists “without a reasonable suspicion” that they weren’t engaged in an essential activity.
“At this time, unless we have specific information, we wouldn’t be able to indiscriminately stop those driving,” Beickert said.
McCord urged residents to make themselves aware of what is and isn’t allowed under the stay-at-home order. He said the sheriff’s department received a call Monday about “two kids” playing in a yard, for example.
“Whoever that person was, please don’t do that again,” McCord said. “If you have a reason to call (non-emergency dispatch), call them.”